Saturday, April 23, 2011

Back on the Bay

By 6:30 AM we had made the Great Bridge Bridge 6AM opening and successfully passed through the Great Bridge Lock in Virginia.
Here's a look at the "ruler" inside the lock indicating how far you will rise or fall -- we only fell 1 foot.

It was very anti-climatic. Not at all like the Erie Canal locks I rode through on a tour boat.

As you can see here, we traversed the lock at sunrise. The lightening skies and morning quiet really added to the experience. This was good,, since it was such a non-event. Christine and I were quite disappointed. But, props to the Captain and Andy for knowing how to tie the lines and make it all work.

Joining us in the Lock was the Captain and Crew of the Mary Kathryn whom we had met waiting out the storm in Charleston. We are now running up the Chesapeake Bay together, destination: Solomons Island for a night at anchor before heading to Annapolis tomorrow (Sunday).
Before entering the Bay we traveled through Norfolk Harbor, under the watchful eye of gunners and patrol boats protecting the naval fleet. At 8AM, Mid-way through the harbor, we cheered as we passed Mile 0 of the Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway. Freedom has now explored over 1,000 miles of the ICW, from the party at the sand bar off of Key Biscayne to the industrial and military waterfront of Norfolk.
We are now in familiar waters, dodging crab pots and letting the autopilot steer our way north.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Local Papers

Local Papers

Whenever we go ashore we try to pick up a newspaper and catch up on what’s happening in town and around the world. We can always read the latest news via apps on our phones -- as long as there is internet service -- or catch the news-loop on CNN, but there is no better way to tune into the local culture than the paper -- be it a big city daily or a small town weekly.

Over the past several days we have picked up papers in Charleston, SC (multi-sectioned daily); Georgetown, SC (2 section daily); and Swansboro, NC (1 section weekly, plus inserts from Piggly Wiggly and the like). I was not the only crew member to peruse the obituaries in each paper and notice that everyone passes on differently in each location. In Charleston, you “go to rest in eternal peace.” In Georgetown, the departed “go home to be with the Lord,” and in Swansboro, well there you just “die.”

The expression we enjoyed most was from our friend Jim in South Carolina, who simply says you “step off the bus.”

Take your pick -- just not too soon.

Over the River and Under the Bridges

We have been in some remote locations and internet service has been very spotty this week, preventing me from keeping up with the blog. Here is a recap of our week:

Mile 309 - 229
After Monday’s adventure through the rockpile, Tuesday brought us a series of bridges through northern South Carolina and southern North Carolina. Many bridges along the ICW are 65 feet or higher, but others are anywhere from 7 to 12 feet. Freedom needs 26’. Some bridges open on the hour every hour, some on the hour and the half hour, and some by request. Some of those are drawbridges and some are swing bridges. Before every bridge on Tuesday we asked the question: do we throttle up and go for it, or slow down, relax and wait for the next opening? It made for some exciting moments, particularly when the tender of a “once an hour opening” bridge told us we needed to “put a beat on it” and that we did, just slipping through at the last minute. Phew!

Meanwhile on Freedom, Christine organized my galley -- what a treat! I’ll write more about that later on our companion blog, FreedomFare

We spent Tuesday night at Casper's Marina in Swansboro, SC where we foolishly ignored advice to go to Cap’n Charlie’s Seafood Paradise Restaurant.

Mile 229 - 141
Wednesday’s trip was much more relaxing than Monday or Tuesday’s - but just as long, covering 88 miles. We bid farewell to our cruising companions Gene and Carol on September Rose as they turned into Oriental, NC, and we continued on up the Nuese River. The Nuese’s wide body reminded us all of the Chesapeake Bay - a welcome relief after the narrow and rocky waterways of the past few days.

Wednesday night we found a remote, pristine anchorage off near the mouth of the Pungo River. The meandering shores were lined with grasses as far as the eye could see. Some locals stopped by, out for their first ride of the season, to say hello and ask where we were coming from and where we were going. The first and last boat we saw all night.

Mile 141 - 104
Right now (Thursday evening)I am writing at anchor at Tuckahoe Point on the Alligator River. We stopped here just after noon upon hearing the swing bridge a few miles ahead had been closed due to high winds (gusts up to 30 mph). We can see at least a dozen other boats at anchor waiting out the weather. Although the bridge opened a few hours ago we decided to stay put for the night. The Albermarle Sound lays ahead, and it should only be crossed in the best conditions -- even in an ocean going vessel like Freedom. It turns out to be a gift from Mother Nature -- we have all enjoyed the chance to rest, read, and recharge for the final days of our trip. Scrabble Tournament after dinner.....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rolling Down the Rivers

We have made great progress on our journey over the past few days - covering 90 miles on Monday and 80 miles yesterday(Tuesday). That might not sound like a lot, but on the ICW it is like working double overtime.

On Sunday night we stopped in Georgetown, SC -- a beautiful southern town with tree lined streets, graceful homes with porches, and a church on every corner (or so it seemed). Georgetown, founded in 1729, is South Carolina's third oldest city (after Charleston and Beaufort) but it is also the probable site of the first European settlement in North America in 1526. Unfortunately, Sunday is truly a day of rest in Georgetown and no shops or museums were open. We had hoped to visit the Rice Museum -- this was major rice growing area until the Civil War and several devastating hurricanes wiped out most of the industry. I look forward to returning to Georgetown to take a walking tour of the city, visit the Rice Museum, sample the Hog Maw at Aunny's Country Kitchen Restaurant, and enjoy the chocolate chip cookies (rumored to be the best on the ICW) at the Kudzu Bakery and Mercantile.

Christine and I had hoped to be able to stop in at the Kudzu Bakery at 9AM Monday morning but the Captain and the tide had other plans.So, we were off, following September Rose, another Selene from Annapolis, through the cypress swamps along the Waccama River. This was the most remote and beautiful stretch of the ICW I have encountered. For most of the day we had no cell or internet service. While doing my TRX in the cockpit, I spied several bald eagles in their nests - some tending to their young. Leaving the swamps we grasped the steering wheel and entered The Rock Pile. When the ICW was established a cut needed to be made at Pine Island, SC. Undeterred by the granite ledge they discovered, the Army Corps of Engineers simply detonated the rock, leaving the rocky debris along the shore. At first, the ICW was wide and deep, but over the years, shifting tides have moved the rocks closer and closer to the boat traffic. If you go through at low tide you can see some of these errant rock piles, but at high tide they are submerged requiring diligent attention to the depth sounder and remaining on the "Magenta Line" -- the color of the line on paper charts depicting the path of the ICW. One false move and you are heading in for repairs. After a long but scenic day, we settled into a slip in Southport , SC where we enjoyed dinner aboard and girls vs. boys round of Catch Phrase.
Just before bed we looked out the window to see a row of three tugs pulling a minimum of 5 connected barges carrying dredging equipment -- quite a sight in the dark,and a convoy we would not want to encounter during the day in the narrow and shallow passages of the ICW. A long, busy and varied day --and I still haven't told you about Tuesday!.
Here is what one of the barge dredging convoys looks like in daylight. We came to realize they stay put during the day to avoid pleasure craft, and travel the ICW at night when folks like us are safely at anchor or at a dock.

Freedom Fitness

As soon as we tie up at a Marina and tidy up a bit the first thing the Freedom crew wants to do is get on shore and stretch our legs! A good brisk walk always feels good. Our slip in Charleston was at least a quarter mile from shore affording us a good walk just to get to the showers. But, we don't go to shore everyday and on those days we have a few other options: exercise videos are convenient (but sometimes require more space for movement or equipment than we store on board); the stereo can provide good background music to established routines; and then there is our favorite: the TRX. Designed by a Navy Seal the TRX suspension training system utilizes nylon straps to create resistance from your body weight and gravity. It provides a terrific workout from the cockpit of the boat. There is nothing better than cruising along among the cypress or the marshlands while keeping up with our fitness routines. The view at the Y is much different!
(One thing I learned early on is that many yoga stretches, especially the one-legged variety, are not to be attempted underway.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes

After a day of high winds, waves crashing over the dock, boats testing the strength of their fenders,tornado watches and "small people warnings" we awoke to clear blue skies, lighter air and calmer seas. So it is back on the ICW, destination Georgetown, SC. Andy is at the wheel, Christine is having her first shower on a moving boat and the Captain is navigating.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Charming Charleston

After a "skinny" trip up the IntraCoastal on Thursday - holding our collective breaths along the shallow parts- we anchored in Conch Creek for a night before tying up at Charleston City Marina Friday mornnng. A certain comraderie deloped among the boats we encountered in the shallow passages - exchanging valuable information on depths and hazards as well as sights on shore including a wild boar! It has been fun to meet many of these fellow travelers here at the marina.
We enjoyed lunch at Salty Mike's with Chet's good friend and College of Charleston student Ben Bevan and then took the Marina shuttle bus into town for a carriage tour. Our plans had been to leave today and head towards Georgetown, SC but stormy weather is heading this way so we have opted to stay put for another day. No complaints here! While the Captain and Al took the shuttle to West Marine, Donna and I explored the Saturday Farmer's. Market in Marion Square. We filled our bags with produce, local cheese, and grits. We're back on the boat for an afternoon on laundry, showers, and naps before welcoming Andy and Christine.
In the log book we will be certain to note that Charleston requires at least a 3 day stop when we head south in the fall.
Please excuse all typos - using my phone and the keys and font are small!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You're Home

Those were the words uttered by Mrs.Charlene Webb, of Beaufort, SC upon hearing the Captain was a descendant of the many Barnwell's and Elliotts buried there in St. Helena's churchyard. And then she said, "Why, we're related too -- I am also a descendant of the Barnwell's." An impromptu family reunion in the church hall.

The Captain has family roots deep in the low country. One of the first persons to be buried at St. Helena's was Col. John Barnwell, also known as "Tuscarora Jack"because of the wars he led against the Tuscarora Indians. He was born in Ireland in 1671 and died in South Carolina in June 1724.

Col. John's grandson, Robert Woodward Barnwell, also buried at St. Helena's, was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, later the US House of Representatives, and also the President of the University of South Carolina. In 1860 he was a candidate for the Presidency of the Confederacy.
On the Elliott side, Brig. Gen. Stephen Elliott, JR CSA was best known for this defense of Fort Sumter, "converting its ruins into an impregnable fortress. After the War of Northern Aggression he was re-elected to the SC State Legislature, but weakened by wounds and exposure, he died a few months later in February 1866. Another notable Elliott found buried at St. Helena's was William Elliott II was a veteran of the American Revolution, wounded in the Battle of St. John's Island. After the war he developed plantations on Parris Island and Hilton Head, and he was the first to plant Sea Island Cotton in South Carolina. Born in 1761, he died in May 1808.

Here are some other images from St. Helena's and Beaufort, SC:

As you can tell, We had a fascinating day wandering about Beaufort, and taking a guided carriage ride. We then motored to Dataw (aka Datha) Island where we were greeted by Jim Gourd, a fellow CCA member, and enjoyed a fun dinner with Jim and his wife Babs.
This morning we are headed towards Charleston -- a two day trip.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Technical Difficulties

I finally had a good wireless connection today and thought I would upload a bunch of pictures. Noteto self: just because my computer at home has a slot for my memory card does not mean the Captain's l?aptop has the same. Second note to self : the teenage boys at Best Buy were wrong when they told me I did not need the us eb4 USB card. Bottom line: allthe photos I have taken with my good camera are trapped there until I return to Wayne. Meanwhile my cell phone pictures will have to do. Tonight we are anchored off of Bull Island in sight of Hilton Head. The Captain's. Family tree has the name Bull on it. But that is tomorrow's story!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mud and Hell With High Water

If shops existed on the ICW one would surely sell T-shirts emblazoned with "I Survived Little Mud River" or "Come Hell (please) With High Water". That pretty much sums up our day. We tackled Little Mud Creek this morning - a stretch of the ICW that lives up to its name. Although maybe it should be called Lots Of Mud Creek. We pressed on following the Georgia marshlands, escorted by dolphins, to Hell Gate, another notoriously shallow stretch. With a sigh of relief we turned into Moon River ( yes THAT Moon River the one that inspired Johnny Mercer to write the song sung by Andy Williams). Dinner as we watched the sunset over Moon River. Savannah tomorrow.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Georgia Bound

We had a great two nights in Fernandina Beach --one at anchor, the next at the dock -- giving us the chance to get out & walk about. Yesterday we said good-bye to Karl -- good shipmate and fixer of many things -- and hello to Al and Donna. Dinner onshore at Brett's was a southern treat, including: biscuits, fried oysters, bbq shrimp, buttermilk fried pork loin, collards, and grits. Fabulous!
Today (Saturday) we have begun our two day trip towards Savannah. I am hoping to have the chance to upload some photos taken along the way -- stay tuned.

There's always laughter on board when Al and Donna join us (check out her t-shirt)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Guns and Dolphins

The alarm rang at 5:45 AM so we could ride the tide from Jacksonville (Mile 740)to Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island (Mile 717) Florida. By 10 Am we had watched a pod of dolphins jump in the distance and swim close to play in our bow; witnessed an Anhinga dry its wings atop a piling; motored close to a bald eagle; and been approached by Homeland Security, with a large, scary 30mm gun firmly mounted on their bow, warning us to stay away from a large ship (named ARC). We wound our way to Fernandina Beach, arriving about 11AM. We will be anchored here, just off the downtown historic district and with a good view of the paper mills, until Saturday when we head towards Georgia.
Fun Fernandina Facts: It is Florida's northernmost city. Amelia Island, named after King George II's daughter, is the only place in the US to have flown 8 different flags, including the standard of the Conquistadors and the French Huguenots, the British Union Jack and the stars and bars of the Confederacy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jacksonville Bound

Freedom experienced a crew change on Sunday with the departure of Robin and Alan and the arrival of Karl. St. Augustine, the oldest city in the US, was the changeover spot - and a beautiful one at that. Everyone enjoyed the chance to stretch their legs and enjoy a walk around town. Here's a photo of the Captain heading ashore with Freedom in the background, anchored at the West end of the Bridge of Lions.
Freedom is now cruising the St. John's River beyond Jacksonville. Tomorrow they will turn around and head back towards shore to pick up the First Mate!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Looking to the Sky

A Message from the Captain this morning (April 1st)
Yesterday - March 31st - around 15:00 we were whacked by thunderstorms and heavy winds. NOAA issued waterspout warnings but we did not see any. Stead 30 with gusts to 45 and lots of lightning. Glad to have a heavy boat with a full keel. Being inside was very civilized. The only foredeck work was dropping the anchor. A second squall line came through around 18:00 then lots of lightning and thunder all night.

Looks like a nice day and should have the current with us at least all morning.

This afternoon while passing Cape Canaveral theFreedom crew saw the last Shuttle on its pad. Too far away for a picture, but not for a farewell to another era in the the US Space Program.